A birthday walk in the Peaks – a time to catch up with old friends!

With my birthday looming (on the 14th Dec) I thought it’d be a good idea to get some of the guys together for a bit of a catch up. Life gets all too hectic and before you know it it’s weeks / months / even years since you last had a good catch up! With that in mind I thought it’d be best not to suggest cycling (although I’d be more than happy to partake in any number of cycling adventures but appreciate not everyone has this same crazy enthusiasm as myself) so I decided the focus of the get together would be a ‘walk’ followed by some hearty grub and a few ales in the heart of the Peak district.

The Youth Hostel at Castleton was first choice (due to the proximity to a good number of pubs for the night time and the local walks afforded on your doorstep) but alas, the decision to organise this only 4 weeks or so before the date meant it was fully booked up.

Never mind, a very worthy second for this is the Youth Hostel at Edale (Last visited by myself back in school – at least some 20 years ago!) Room for 6 booked and 5 people confirmed – great when a plan comes together in this way.

Edale Youth Hostel

Next up is the route, for a long time I had a route up Grinds Brook to the plateaux – then to the Kinder Downfall (through the bogs) and back via Kinder Low & Jacobs ladder (Approx. 11 miles). But a few days before the event my mind was changed by the prospect of making it a “bit of a longer pub crawl”.

kinder walk
Kinder Scout route – just as well we didn’t opt for this.

So the route was changed in favour of walking from the hostel through Edale, up Jacobs ladder, over Brown Knoll and on to the Lords Seat. Towards (but not up) Mam Tor, then south to pick up the Limestone Way and into Castleton via Cave Vale. Stop for a pint or two in Castleton then up and out of the valley via Hollins Cross back to the hostel (c. 14 miles – 11 miles before the first pub and a 3 mile walk back).

Castleton Walk
Planned…. 🙂 route

The days before the walk was franticly checking the weather forecast – On Wednesday – it said heavy snow. Brilliant (seriously! For a while I’ve been wanting to head up the hills under snowfall to see the landscape in a shiny white blanket). Thursday – forecast was Heavy Snow, excellent – this is going to be great. Friday – Heavy snow, I can’t wait! Saturday (the day of the walk), Heavy rain all day. Fuck.

fri forecast
Forecast on Friday for the Sat looked like snow….

So Saturday 12th December came around with its forecast for heavy rain all day. Bag was packed the night before (including all walking essentials such as a flask of coffee, a hip flask full of whiskey and several cans of Shippo’s bitter (Shipsterns – not Shipstones – Aldi’s finest).

Wayne had already picked up John and arrived at mine for 7.50am – next we swung by Scott’s parents (he had stopped there for the night as now lives in Great Malvern) and then on to get Matt from outside of the Oak in Watnall.

On the way up we stopped in the Sainsburys at Matlock for some cash and for Wayne to fill his flask with hot chocolate from the café so we took the opportunity to all grab a bacon sarnie each before our arrive at the Edale youth hostel. When we went back out to the car it was pissing it down. Huge puddles forming already in the carpark was a prelude to the weather we’d have all day. Never mind, onward we drove and got to Edale YHA for around 10am.

In spite of the weather we agreed to keep to the schedule of the longer walk and a pint in Castleton and made final adjustments to our packs before leaving out of the west side of the YHA along a footpath. I was instantly regretting the decision to wear my “approach shoes” that were more like trainers than walking boots and suited to light rock scrambling with its flat sole at the front. Not good in slippy mud! (I have a pair of walking boots but had worn them the day before as a bit of a test for the day. I walked 3 miles in them and ripped my heels to shreds – not ideal the day before a big walk but better I found out they’re no longer suitable for me there than miles away up a plateaux!

It could have been worse though, Scott had his running trainers complete with mesh upper (at least my approach shoes have a small amount of waterproofness), it’s ok he proclaimed – I’ve two carrier bags I’ll slip my feet into! After we all stopped laughing he agreed this was perhaps not the best approach – he’d make do with  wet feet. Just as well as I believe they got soaked after the first 10/15 minutes.

So after the carpark and me nearly falling arse over tit towards Ollerbrook Booth and the muddy path we had a more defined track to walk on. We followed this into Edale itself (Passing the fab Old Nags Head pub) then onto the Pennine Way.

wet clouds
more wet clouds

We were soon at Upper Booth and was all wet (but really warm) so all had to stop and shed some layers in order to continue without melting. Despite it being the middle of December and a forecast of 0° the reality was it was hovering around 5-10° out of the wind.

Into the abyss
more and more wet clouds…

Still westwards on the Pennine Way we soon at Jacobs ladder, a lull in the weather meant we had the chance for a bite to eat and drink before ascending. Very good call as from here on it was treacherous.

Snap time!

Having climbed Jacobs ladder we were now in the clouds and driving rain. The water was rushing off the high plateaux all around us and even those with waterproof boots we suffering water ingress – much to Scott’s amusement! We were questions our own sanity being up there in the awful conditions as it looked like were the only people daft enough to be out in these conditions.

Enter a caption

Around Edale cross we changed directions and headed south (having almost missing the turn off and continuing West), a nice “Path” presented itself and we were able to make great strides along this heading south (the path was like giant slabs laid into place in the boggy moorland at the top, deviate off this and you’ll be shouting “Where’s me Boot!”)

Where’s me boot!

Our next destination was “Brown Knoll” south of where we were, “It’s coming up soon” I said as we were looking for the trig point telling us we were on the right track…. But it didn’t come! A check of the map told me we’d taken a left turn where a right would have been beneficial. Hard to spot as we were marching quick style to get out of the clouds, rain / hail and huge gusts of wind that were buffering and battering us. Had we somewhere to shelter and take stock we could have checked the map properly to see where to go (double back to the point we should have turned would have been the answer) but stopping for any time in those conditions now meant freezing very quickly so we decided to crack on along the path as it was a nice slabbed rocky one.

But then that ended! We were in open boggy moorland jumping across these torrents that had formed due to the weather, sinking into the mud with regular hilarity. At least we were all in the same boat – it was pretty grim. But we were all still smiling – it’s amazing the things you do to cheer each other up in those situations – how the smallest thing can make you laugh and forget how bad it is! It was at this point we spotted John had stopped and put on his full face ski goggles – he’d brought them for a laugh with the snow forecast but here they were the envy of everyone as they were proving much needed protection from the elements.

The path swung west again (the wrong way!) and we had picked up the Pennine Bridleway. We took stock and decided to follow this as it would join us up with the initial route we had planned. We had gone wrong – but only by 4 or 5 miles – ooops! We were so far west we could see Chapel-en-le-Frith now we had dropped a little out of the clouds. At least we were now heading East.

Still smiling!
a bit wet on the Pennine Bridleway

The hip flask provided us all some much needed warmth as we plodded on. The stop at Matlock early and the brief one at the bottom of Jacobs ladder were saviours – there was no way for miles we had the opportunity to safely stop and replenish so we were lucky. On the Pennine Bridleway we were heading for the “Lords Seat” and then onto Castleton. As a group we decided this would perhaps be a little foolhardy as were all dripping wet (not a dry stich of clothing on any of us) and stopping in a pub, getting warm and continuing in the dark (as the sun would have set by then) is perhaps not the best idea.

A route back was quickly located, we left the path to pick up Chapel gate and dropped off the side of the ridge. We passed a few mountain bikers on a club run coming up the hill – chapeaux to those guys for riding today!

A hardy soul slugging his way up Chapel Gate
Chapel Gate – looking into the Edale Valley

Once we cleared them Matt pulled out the best thing you could ask for in those circumstances – Jaffa Cakes! The pack lasted around 10 seconds. Impressive stuff!

The joy of Jaffa cakes!

Soon enough we were at the bottom of the track and picked up the road. We followed this for a few more miles all the way back to the hostel. GPS said we’d covered 22.6km (14 miles) – impressive in unfavourable conditions and we were all so wet!

The final stats for the walk. Impressive in tricky conditions.
birthday walk
Route taken in the end… notice the “slight” detour to the plan!

Checked in we were told our room is in “Kinder Cottage” – up some 40 odd steps! Not what you need when the legs are knackered. Soon enough we in the building, outside the door and all ready for a warm shower. To save getting the room soaking wet through everyone stripped off to their bare essentials outside the room in the hallway. If anyone was passing through they would have had a shock to their system (similar to the scene in the Full Monty where the bailiffs turn up and are told to “Put down and Piss off” by several blokes in their undercrackers!

Kinder Cottage circled (our home for the night) & the main reception for the hostel in the centre. You can just about make out the steps in yellow….

A well-earned night out followed in Edale (we never left the Old Nags Head), we all treated ourselves to the cavery (and a fantastic game pie) a game of cards and a few stories. I won’t go into those details here but I think one involved a “Sand …..” or something?

The Old Nags Head at Edale

Next day the room was not the most pleasant. 5 guys in a room with plenty of ale the night before… I think the paint was starting to peel off in places. Breakfast wolfed down and we were on the road for home by 9am.

Matt & Scott laving the hostel

All in all, despite the weather it was a fantastic getaway. A chance to catch up with old friends, put the world to rights and share a beer. A great way to spend the day. (Needless to say, there would have been a few more pictures and of better quality but the weather – did i mention that already? was a bit shit so this is the best i could do!)

The view from the Hostel in the morning. Stunning – and no rain….

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